KINGDOM | From Brooklyn to EXTERRA
Brooklyn born and LA based producer and artist, Kingdom, is bringing back is clubby and unique dance music to the industry. With two new EPs, the first one called “EXTERRA, Vol. 1,” on the way and an album coming in 2020, he is back in the realm of dance music, but keeping true to his innovative style.
All the way from the east coast, Kingdom was booked to perform in LA in the early 2000s, which gave him a foot in the door to the west coast’s music scene. From here, he has continued to expand his musical capacity and does not abide by genres or any type of limitation; with experimental taste and a desire to create, he strives to generate music that he loves and that the audience can appreciate/value.
He was kind enough to join me for a phone interview in which I asked many questions, hoping to find out more about him as a person and his career.
I know that Nacho Nava kind of helped bring you to LA, how did he influence you?
I was DJing a lot in New York, but he was the first person to put me on a flight and bring me to the west coast to DJ. I think that the influence he really has is that he was putting people on like me who didn’t have any other shows or have a lot of hype or a lot of press or anything like that. He really just believed in the new talent and was always just so generous with that regardless of how well the show did or anything like that. It was really just like he was excited to put people on and it never seemed like it was something he was doing for his own to serve his own interest. It really was something he was doing for the community in LA. Specifically, influential in creating a really special scene on the eastside of LA. I think most people will associate like the gay scene with the west side, West Hollywood scene, which is so specific and there really wasn’t much going on on the eastside maybe a couple bars, but he was the first to create a really vibrant night life scene that involved art and dance and all different kinds of Djs of all different races, but also it wasn’t just a community vibe, it was also like he was bringing really really good music and reall really amazing performers, so it also drew in just from straight people music fans who knew that Mustache would have more edgy stuff, so it wasn’t just creating an alternative it was also just about quality. He had such a good eye for innovative stuff.
What was it like working with Nacho Nava cause I know you guys were working on a Netflix show together.
Working with him was always a pleasure. He was always just so sweet so generous and he was just a great figure and really supportive of my label and my parties too. He would always, without me even asking, support a face of mine or event that I was doing that had nothing to do with Mustache. He was always so sweet. More recently, that’s actually kind of why the music video is dedicated to Nacho because basically I met the video director through Nacho. Nacho put us together in a conference call and basically we started talking and they had planned to bring some type of documentary for Netflix about kind of the more alternative more POC side of LA nightlife, specifically gay nightlife and queer nightlife. It was really just in the early stages of talk. We really didn’t get it off the ground, but Shahana, the director, was gonna obviously be on the director’s side and working on the shots and the camera stuff and all that. They wanted me to come in and add music to it, but essentially throw in some different raves and help bring in music so that we could create some events to film because there’s not, sadly there’s not a lot of footage of a lot of the old Mustache parties. They’re relatively undocumented, so that was the idea, but I think when he passed Shahana felt like it didnt’t make sense to pursue it still. It really was Nacho’s project. It was really just a conversation, but even just that concept was inspirational and meeting the director is kind of what spawned us to create the music video together in honor of him.
It seems like Nacho has been really influential to kind of your start here in LA and the music scene, but has he influenced your work at all kind of like maybe the beats you decide to use or the music has he influenced any of it?
Since he’s not a musician or DJ himself I wouldn’t say it’s a direct influence on the actual sound. I’d say he’s more of an influence when it comes to throwing parties and bringing people together in the community and just showing people kindness and more of the things I spoke about a moment ago. Just about the social element of music more than the sound exactly, but I know the sound he likes and I think he had an appreciation for the sounds I work with.
How does it feel to be in the genre again?
It feels really good. I feel like with my last album Tears in the Club I was in a very kind of like atmospheric moody RnB space and ever since that album came out I’ve been doing more vocal production, working with singers, and I worked really hard launching the new singer that signed to Fade to Mind called Semma, so I’ve been really in that zone of creating something for vocalists and when I’m doing that I sometimes put aside exactly the Kingdom sound and I’m trying to create a universe for the singer that gives them a unique identity. It’s just a totally different assignment. It’s a different thing and it’s a different lifestyle too. It’s a lot of hours spent helping singers songwrite and it definitely tested my patience a lot of the time because I’ve spent quite a bit of time with several vocalists making demos for their projects and singers make hundreds of demos to test their project. A lot of time your beat doesn’t get picked or they go in a different direction or sometimes the vocalist is just caught up in other stuff and they don’t even release something. I might have been so in that world, so it was really refreshing to just kind of stop accepting bookings to do vocal sessions and I think it was kind of a reaction to doing all those vocal sessions that made me really want to just get back into my more ravey, clubby, housey references and it’s kind of also where I started. My first release ever, “Mind Reader,” was very kind of hard, weird, dance stuff, so I’m kind of going back and starting from scratch and starting from the beginning again and it just feels really good. I’m just excited to put stuff that’s more high energy and I’m DJing a lot right now, so it’s exciting to just play things that I can blend and just be kind of weird again cause I think working with vocalists it’s a lot more compromises, a lot more catering to them.
Do you have any inspirations for creating music, like are there any other artists that you look towards to or does everything just come from within?
There’s definitely artists I look up to. Sometimes I freeze with the question because there’s so many that I have. I would have to say Rod Lee, Terror Danjah, and Darkchild.
Would you ever mix different genres together like if you did RnB and dance music? Or is that something that you’ve already ventured into before?
Even though I do make some fully RnB sounding stuff, I kind of think that’s really what I’m known for even though the new stuff is pretty clubby, but I think you can still hear these little shreds of like the vocal stuff, the vocal samples. I think that RnB element is always there. That’s pretty much my mission, either I’m weaving back and forth or I’m weaving them together just kind of RnB sound with the club sound. For the next volume, I’m making another volume of the EXTERRA series and that one’s either gonna have more of the vocal stuff in it and I’m also working on my next album. I’ve got a lot of homework right now. I’m bringing in more vocal stuff as it progresses from my EP to my next album.
In regards to the vocal production, is there anything you look for in an artist when you want them to be on one of your songs?
I love weird vocal textures. I just love when someone has a baby voice or has a strange croaky texture or has certain types of node that they like to hit. Just something that sets it apart because there’s so many people that sound so similar. And someone who’s not afraid of intense rhythm cause I think a lot of singers come from the studio wanting a really simple beat or something that sounds like their favorite, you know, Ella Mai song or like H.E.R. song or maybe a Corella song they heard or something, so I think someone who is down to get experimental and doesn’t mind sampling their voice. I’m especially also just addicted to high voices. I love falsetto. I’m known for working with women, which is my favorite working with female vocals. If I’m working with a guy he definitely has to be able to channel his feminine side. I don’t really like to work with men who wanna sing about the macho shit on the mic like I’m way more into men who are singing. you know explore both sides
Do you have a certain process of producing or like how do you kind of create your songs?
I’ve always been a drummer, so I feel like when I’m on my own making beats I always start with drums and just playing with different drum sounds and I finally, after years of not doing it, started to create my own drum kits and drum packs, so I have my own custom samples that I’m playing around with. When it comes to singers usually they’ll just freestyle over an existing beat. With Sema, the artist I recently signed to my label, she was one of the first people that I really just improvised with and sometimes she would just come in and she would start singing something first, so that’s a totally different process like kind of working in reverse and working from what her voice is doing.
Do you have any stories of the first time you met MikeQ or Ms. Boogie?
This new EP I just put out, EXTERRA, Vol. 1, is kind of a throwback to the beginning of my career in many ways. One of them being that I’m returning to dance music and making just like much clubbier, harder material than I’ve made in a long time, but it also actually has two collaborations with artists that I’ve known for I think over a decade. Me and MikeQ and Shane Oliver from Hood by Air were the three Djs who got booked to DJ this artist named Reshaw Newsom. He had a party for one of his art openings. I had actually been a fan of Mike from MySpace and his website for years already and when I finally met him I just completely fanned out and got to play a track. My set was pretty much like MikeQ and Ivana Lore who’s like another ballroom legend. I basically played all super hard underground ballroom voguing music. I don’t think that Mike was expecting that from me necessarily and actually Mike went out on the dance floor and started voguing and he’s not a voguer, he’s a DJ. He rarely ever actually hits the dance floor and vogue. That was back when we Dj’d on CD so that night me and him like traded CDs and he gave me his CDs from his like case logic and I gave him CDs from mine. Ever since then we’ve been in touch and he’s producing music on my label as well, but he’s kind of hard to nail down and get a studio session with, so I’m just really excited to me and him having a track together 10 years later finally. My very first party that I threw on my own in NY was called “Club Vortex” and it was like in the back room of this art space, so it’s not really a venue at all and they didn’t have any security or anything and I think after the first one the word kind of got around cause you know under age kids are always looking for those very few places that they aren’t going to card, so I think word got around that there was this party happening that wasn’t carding and that was super open and fun and a few friends of mine actually showed up with Ms. Boogie at that very first party and me and her hit it off. She kind of got in a little bit of trouble that night. There was kind of like a little bit of a tussle on the dance floor and I think some wigs got pulled, but it was a pretty crazy night and that was before she was even just vocals, so it’s been amazing to see her progress into rapping and making music and I just love what she brings to the track.
Saturday Kingdom performs with an Allstar roster including Bae Bae, BrownSkinHazel, Total Freedom and Uniiqu3 get tickets HERE